- The Washington Times - Friday, April 14, 2000

Metropolitan Police Thursday took control of city sidewalks and held in check several hundred protesters who marched on the National Press Club, where World Bank President James Wolfensohn and President Clinton were speaking.

Officers prevented the crowd from walking on the sidewalks along 14th Street NW and threw out several demonstrators who managed to get into the Press Club lobby.

Thursday's demonstrations and police response showed increasing opposition on both sides during the protesters' so-called "Days of Action" events, which will culminate Sunday and Monday during meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"People don't have a right to come here and chain themselves together and block traffic," D.C. police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said. "This is a two-way street. The World Bank and the IMF have a constitutional right to have a meeting."

Police Thursday arrested one protester who was pounding on the hood of a Secret Service vehicle near the World Bank.

Wednesday night, D.C. police and Secret Service officers arrested seven other activists who were transporting PVC pipes, chains, chicken wire and tar in two vehicles at 17th and U streets NW.

At a news conference Thursday, Chief Ramsey displayed the materials, saying they were to be used to construct "sleeping dragons" or "lock boxes," in which protesters chain themselves together to shut down streets.

The seven activists were charged with possession of implements of a crime and conspiracy to commit a crime.

An activist spokesman said the confiscated pipes were not weapons or intended to hurt anyone. "We have one specific mandate," said Han Shan of the Ruckus Society, which trains activists in civil disobedience tactics. "We're going to shut down the meetings in a peaceful, nonviolent fashion. We have no intention to hurt anyone."

Representatives from the National Lawyers Guild sent to Attorney General Janet Reno a letter citing "the serious violations of the constitutional rights of political activists." A Justice Department spokesman did not return a call seeking comment about the letter.

"Despite assurances to the contrary, we are beginning to see an escalation of police tactics similar to the gross violations witnessed in Seattle," said Denis Moynihan of the Mobilization for Global Justice, the activists' umbrella group.

As many as 10,000 activists are expected to use civil disobedience tactics such as human barricades and sit-ins to prevent delegates from reaching the World Bank and IMF meetings here next week, much like the protests in Seattle during December's meetings of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Those protests erupted into violence with more than 580 persons arrested and $10 million in damage reported.

In a joint letter to Congress Thursday, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp requested a $5 million, one-time appropriation to reimburse city police for costs incurred during the weeklong protests.

The District's leaders told the chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations committees that a similar amount was allocated to Seattle to cover the cost of WTO protests last fall.

The projected overtime cost for police officers is $1.6 million, Chief Ramsey said, adding that the department spent $1 million on new crowd control gear.

D.C. police officials have said they won't be overwhelmed like Seattle police, who imposed a curfew and broke up protests with clubs, rubber bullets and tear gas. Hundreds of Seattle police, 200 National Guard troops and 600 state troopers were needed to restore order after rioting erupted.

The protests will test local police officials, who said they learned the lessons of the Seattle riots. Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper resigned in December, taking full responsibility for the violence that disrupted the WTO meeting.

"What we're trying to do is prevent what happened in Seattle," Chief Ramsey said. "Our goal isn't making arrests.

On Monday, police arrested seven demonstrators who had blocked traffic near the World Bank.

Groups opposing the World Bank and IMF represent a variety of causes: the environment, labor, human rights, peace, anti-global capitalism and debt-reduction for poor nations.

Protest targets in Washington include the World Bank and IMF buildings, the White House, Capitol Hill, the State Department and the Treasury Department.

Police have closed streets around the World Bank and IMF 19th Street NW between G Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, and H Street NW between 18th and 20th streets until further notice.

Only pedestrians and authorized vehicles will be allowed in the area. No pedestrians will be allowed in front of the World Bank or IMF building.

Thursday, small-scale protests began at places like the Starbucks coffee shop on Dupont Circle and George Washington University, where officials canceled weekend events and Monday classes because of IMF protests.

Global Exchange, a fair trade activist group, began the day's protests with a "partial victory" over Starbucks, for persuading the gourmet coffee chain to sell "fair trade" coffee beans in its stores nationwide.

Twenty countries take part in selling fair-trade coffee, which pays farmers $1.26 per pound more than triple the average income, Global Exchange members said.

"Any coffee, if it's not fair-trade certified, it's sweatshop coffee," said Deborah James, fair-trade director for Global Exchange. "We are not anti-trade. We are pro-fair trade."

Late Thursday, about 150 people gathered in a small park across from the World Bank to hear how its development policies displace millions in Third World countries.

"People are uprooted and forced to make way for development," said Dana Clark of the Center for International and Environmental Law, adding that construction projects for dams, roads and power plants in China, Brazil and Indonesia force millions of people from their homes.

Thursday night, protesters joined several hundred steelworker union members at Lafayette Park for a rally and vigil featuring music and speakers.

• John Drake and Rebecca Charry contributed to this report.

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